Over the past several decades, advances in healthcare have extended our life expectancies. New smart technologies have enhanced our ability to remain at home for a longer period as we age. What was a stark line in the sand that indicated the need for care has become blurred. There is now a time in between. A time when our minds and bodies are slowing down, but our ability to remain mainly independent is still intact. This stage is now known as interdependence; the time between newly retired independence and becoming dependent on others.
The age at which the interdependence stage begins is different for each person. But what holds true for everyone intent on maintaining their independence is that this stage is a critical planning point. It is the time to recognize and accept future limitations and create a blueprint for what comes next while our physical and mental health is stronger.
Is it easy to think about your own decline? Certainly not. But it simply must be done before the choice may be diminished due to cognitive or physical decline. Planning ahead allows you to document your wishes and have more control of your destiny.
“Document Your Wishes”
Often people equate planning for aging with the creation of their legal documents: a will, powers of attorney, and advance directives. These documents are directions for when a person is incapacitated or after they die.
In the years before your estate documents come into play, a more important question may be how you want to ensure your independence for the time between complete independence and incapacitation. The time of interdependence.
Some of the topics you’ll want to consider are:
- How and when to relinquish responsibilities
- Who will assume responsibilities and take on a decision-making role
- What financial and/or physical factors will impact your ability to age in place
- What modifications are needed to your home to age in place
Tackling these topics before drafting advanced directives will provide valuable insight that can help ensure all documentation meets your needs and wishes. You may want to work with an intermediary to guide you through the process. At Life Managers & Associates, our Certified Aging in Place Specialists have guided our clients through these sometimes-difficult conversations, with the goal of maintaining independence as long as possible.
What About Financial Planning?
Clearly, your wishes for independence are strongly influenced by your financial position. As such, it’s important to consider both your living needs as well as your ability to afford things like modifications to your home that allow you to age in place. Additionally, you should plan for looming expenses and how those liabilities will be covered. This will include healthcare management, but other tasks, such as routine monthly bill paying may become a burden. Ongoing home maintenance and organization also come in to play.
Reviewing your financial situation and making a plan while you are in the interdependence stage will allow you and your support circle to get on the same page and work together toward your independence goal.
Make it a Team Effort
Our best advice is don’t go it alone. Involve your close family. Have the discussions early so that everyone is on board with your wishes. We recognize that having these discussions is never easy, so contact us and we can help steer the conversation. We can even assist with creating basic directives. Then, when clear goals emerge, it’s essential to meet with your attorney and financial advisor to document your wishes and create a plan to fund them. Their counsel and expertise is invaluable to ensuring your desires translate into legal and financially-viable actions.
Interdependence is an opportunity. A time for you to solidify your wishes on paper and preserve your independence for as long as possible. Seize it.